November 29, 2006

Please Don't Pull My Finger

I found out later from my teammates that the sound was mildly sickening – a dull thud/popping sound when a high velocity pass in a Monday night rec league basketball game hit my right index finger square on and sent the ball ricocheting out of bounds.

I reacted the only way I knew how – by saying “Ouch” and playing on.

It wasn’t until the following day that my finger began to take on some of the characteristics of a plum (particularly the fact that it was slightly bloated and purple).

So, Wednesday morning I made my way to the doctor, who decided an x-ray was necessary. After the results were in, the doc returned to give me his diagnosis:

I fractured the shit out of my phalanx. (His words, not mine.)

Though it sounds like some sort of Egyptian artifact, the term phalanx actually refers to bones in the finger. The one I broke is right at the base of the right finger, and apparently the injury happened because the ball dislocated my finger when it struck.

According to the doctor (who performed Knicks’ forward Jared Jeffries’ wrist surgery not long ago), I most likely dislocated the finger and then popped it right back in moments later.

But before you confuse me for some hard core Rambo-type motherfucker, it’s not like I took a pull off a bottle of whiskey, chomped down on my belt and jammed my finger back into socket in a moment of excruciating pain. Apparently the thing just popped back in when I started playing again.

Shortly after visiting the doctor, I was sent to “hand therapy,” which sounds like it could be some sort of pleasurable massage parlor but is actually nothing of the sort. This is the place where they built the semi-cumbersome splint that will be adorning my right finger for much of the next four weeks (the doctor’s estimated time table for healing).

At hand therapy, my hand therapist informed me that normally when she sees a piece of paper saying “PAP fracture/dislocation,” it can usually be a pretty serious thing, but that my finger didn’t look so bad all things considered.

So I’ve got that going for me. Which is nice.

In the meantime, count me out for basketball, squash, polo, jai alai, croquet, discus and skeet shooting (the injury is to my trigger finger) for the next month.

Fortunately (or unfortunately as the case may be) for the world of sports, I’ve still got enough flexibility in my injured digit to type. So while I may be on the real-life Injured Reserve, it’s going to take at least a severed arm or two to knock me out of this game.

November 27, 2006

Shock Value

Late Sunday night, walking on 8th Avenue in New York City, I turned to my left and caught a glimpse of a jogger, who just so happened to be a 200+ pound man wearing nothing more than a jock strap and a black and pink polka-dotted piece of negligee. I took notice of this, but wasn’t even going to say anything about it until one of the people walking with me brought it up, at which point I agreed that it was somewhat strange.

Monday morning, walking down 9th Avenue, I spotted a man in extremely dirty clothes with a pair of ragged sneakers affixed to his right hip, bent down on one knee in the street as though he were searching for an item he might have dropped on the ground.

Though under further examination, it became clear that he was in fact squatted down over the top of a manhole cover peeing at point blank range into one of the holes. (Hey, at least he was depositing his waste directly into the sewer.)

My first reaction to this was to mutter to myself “Oh my God,” but I immediately realized that the truth of the matter was that while I was a little perturbed by the fact that I very nearly saw this man’s member, I was far from shocked by the episode and definitely was not appalled.

Now, had either event occurred in a different context (like the main street of an affluent, stuffy suburb), it might have been a different story. But given that this is New York, a place where large men jog in drag and vagrants micturate into manhole covers whenever they damn well please, it’s not such a big deal.

I bring this up because yesterday, after the Falcons lost at home to the Saints, Michael Vick gave the double bird (not to be confused with the celebratory dance known as the Dirty Bird) to a group of heckling fans.

And the reflex response from the media, perhaps not surprisingly, has been one of disapproval. Michael Vick’s actions were not acceptable, says the scornful voice.

But my question is this: Given the context, why weren’t Vick’s actions acceptable?

Consider the following scenarios:

Scenario #1 – You walk into a mall, go into Radio Shack and ask the employee if he has an adapter that will allow you to plug in your kid’s My First Sony cassette recorder. The salesman says he’s sorry but he doesn’t have it, at which point you reach into a pair of invisible holsters, pull out your extended middle fingers, shove them in his face and storm out of the store.

Verdict: Your actions were uncalled for.

Scenario #2 – You just spent three hours playing in a professional football game, running around the field at reckless speeds, risking broken bones or worse on multiple occasions because you’re intensely competitive and it’s the only way you know how to play, and after en extremely frustrating loss (your team’s fourth straight), someone on the sidelines says something that is clearly intended to get your attention and provoke you, at which point, in a moment of physical and mental exhaustion, you take the bait and flick the guy off. (Which, as a side note, most likely made this individual’s day.)

How can anyone rightfully say they might not act the same way? When I’m going across the street and someone (often times a cab driver) nearly hits me, I give him the finger. If someone calls you an asshole, it’s your impulse to yell right back. This is human nature. In the heat of the moment, how can athletes be expected not to occasionally respond to one of the uncountable insults they hear every game?

The fact is, we’re wasting our time on this one. When an athlete goes into the stands to attack a fan, that’s crossing the line. But to the people out there who can’t understand how Michael Vick could give the bird to an unruly fan after a brutal loss, I’ve got two choice words for you that you hopefully will not take out of context:

Up yours.

November 24, 2006

You Got to be Tryppin'

Forgive the lack of posting over this particular holiday break... All of us at OCC Headquarters have been in a tryptophan-induced coma for the past 36 hours, lying passed out in a pool of what we only can hope is gravy.

We'll be back in action next week. Thank you for your understanding.

November 21, 2006

Yao Ming Attends Nate Robinson's Block Party

Recently had a conversation with a friend about Yao Ming, and what made said conversation noteworthy was when my friend pointed out that, though Yao is playing at a very high level, there’s really nothing more awkward-looking than when he turns the ball over, and at times, it looks like there’s nothing easier in the world than slapping the ball out of his hands.

This was noteworthy because those very words proved prophetic on Monday night, when Knicks’ guard Nate Robinson absolutely packed a Yao dunk attempt with his left hand.

Things you need to know about this:

  • Nate Robinson is listed at 5-9 but he’s probably shorter. Yao is listed at 7-6 and he’s probably 7-6.
  • Robinson is not left-handed.
  • Robinson is an incredible leaper, but he is not in any way, shape or form a shot-blocker. The block on Yao was his third career block in his 84th NBA game. That’s right -- third block. Ever.
  • Also, if you watch the video closely, it’s not like Nate Robinson (great leaper that he is) had to climb to superhuman heights to turn Yao away at the rim. He got the ball right when it was near the bottom of the backboard. Which is to say, Nate Robinson blocked Yao Ming without even having to jump his absolute highest.
  • The moment after he got blocked, Yao doubled over and grabbed his face. Though from watching the video it’s clear that Robinson may have followed through and hit Yao in the face after blocking the shot, the image of Yao doubling over is comical in that it is emblematic of a man who has just been delivered one of the worst facials in history.

The bottom line is this: Yao Ming is a great player, but he way too often looks like another guy his height who made getting posterized a way of life. Someone needs to toughen Yao up. I’m thinking it’s high time Jeff Van Gundy, Dikembe Mutombo and maybe Rafer Alston take the big fella out into the wilderness and run him through a series of grueling activities (pushing boulders, herding cattle, meaninglessly swinging a pick axe, etc.) while some sort of motivational soundtrack from an 80’s movie plays in the background.

Whatever the case, I think the Rockets and Yao Ming need to call a press conference to detail some sort of game plan for how they’re going to deal with this incident. Their man in the middle has been embarrassed, and something needs to be done. I almost think there needs to be a staged scenario in Houston Town Square (not that such a place exists) where Nate Robinson agrees to let Yao dunk on his head on a 9-foot goal, just so that we can be sure that Yao’s psyche isn’t fractured beyond repair.


  • And speaking of facials, how about the dunk that Warriors’ guard Monta Ellis served up on Leandro Barbosa Monday night? The caption on this Youtube clip is “monta ellis DESTROYS barbosa,” and that just about sums it up. Watching the game live I can honestly say that was one of the most electrifying sports moments I can recall in recent memory. And give the Warriors’ TV announcers (and fans) credit for rising to the moment as well.
  • Transitioning to perhaps the only thing that’s more uncomfortable than being blocked or dunked on by an undersized NBA guard, Trail Blazers’ center Joel Przybilla recently had surgery to remove a hematoma from his lower abdomen. Don’t know about the rest of you, but something about the juxtaposition of “hematoma” and “lower abdomen” is enough to make me double over like Yao did after Nate Robinson swatted his shot.

November 20, 2006

Hold Please

The usual Monday update is coming soon... somebody let loose a pack of rabid Jackelopes here at OCC HQ and we've spent the entire morning trying to clean up their mess. Thank you for your patience. Please stand by.

November 16, 2006

Oh Andre, Ware Art Thou?

An unexpected email made its way into the OCC Inbox this week. Check out the following message, sent in by Houston-based reader Jimmyrad:

Wednesday night is coed football league night. It's a lot of fun, pretty competitive, and our team is pretty solid.

About 3 minutes into the game, one of our guys realizes, "Hey, their QB is Andre Ware." Sure enough, the opposing QB in our coed football league last night was 1989 Heisman Trophy winner and NFL bust Andre Ware.

I was playing right side safety. Andre didn't really come my way very often. The wind was howling like a baboon after a tiger eats its baby, and most of his passes were sailing. There were a couple I really thought I had a shot at, only to watch them sail over my head, as well as the wide receiver.

To be totally honest, though, a guy beat me deep on the very first play of the game which kind of stung.

Overall, Andre kind of had a tendency to throw it low and had absolute BB spirals that were pretty tough to pick off. He made many throws into traffic that had no business being thrown, but were anyway, and were perfect.

He only rushed a couple times, and while he got about 15 yards both times, he looked a little out of shape for that.

I've got to say, though, it was really odd to see a coed football QB take the most professional three-step drop ever and use flawless footwork on a rollout. Such solid mechanics. So strange.

The game was close, but we lost by eight when Andre Ware picked off a slant pass in the end zone as we were trying to tie the game up at the end of the game.

There are a few great things about this email, aside from the obvious fact that it involves Andre Ware playing in a coed football game on a Wednesday night in Houston:

1) The quote “Andre didn’t really come my way very often” implies that Andre Ware was far too scared to challenge our fearless correspondent.

2) “The wind was howling like a baboon” is pure poetry.

3) It gives us an excuse to talk about Andre Ware’s majestic flat top (a hairstyle I'm told he has unfortunately chosen to abandon).

And lastly, it leaves us picturing a 38-year-old Andre Ware doing his three-step drop, going through his reads, and firing absolute rocket passes as hard as he can into people’s chests as though this recreational football game was the most important competition he’s ever been involved in, an image that’s all at once incredibly hilarious, a little bit sad, and somehow oddly inspirational, if only in a "Wow, that old QB sure is playing his ass off in this meaningless game" kind of way.

There's at least a shred of dignity in that. Or, maybe not. But at least he won the game.

After all, a former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL QB playing in a coed flag football game is one thing. A former Heisman Trophy winner and NFL QB losing a coed flag football game is a crime against the sporting world that simply cannot be forgiven.

Update: As it turns out, Andre Ware is the color commentator for Houston Texans' games and apparently is something of a local celebrity there. So it's not like he's a down-and-out, desperate guy who wandered into the park looking for a pick-up flag football game and was fortunate enough to be allowed to play (though that is a great image).

Also please note, however, that in no way does Ware's celebrity status absolve him from any jokes made at his expense pertaining to his participation in said game. If anything, his celebrity status should only enhance the validity of such jokes.

November 15, 2006

A Strange Night as a Yankees Fan in the Eyes of Japan

Went out with a friend on Tuesday night with the intention of procuring a couple bottles of sarsaparilla and watching some NBA League Pass at a Hell’s Kitchen bar.

The only problem was, apparently no such Hell’s Kitchen bar existed. We tried three of them in a two-block radius, and there was no League Pass to be found. One bartender even had the nerve to reply to the question “Do you have NBA League Pass?” by saying “Wait, what sport is that?”

I kid you not. You would have thought we were trying to watch the NBA in Micronesia or something. It got so discouraging that we were forced to make a rather unfortunate call: We were going to have to go to ESPNZone.

A disappointing turn of events to say the least. I don’t want to exaggerate, but in many ways the ESPNZone in Times Square rather closely resembles the Eighth Chamber of Hell, minus the perenially blazing infernos and gruesome, not-of-this-earth torture devices. Though on a Tuesday night, there was at least hope that it wouldn’t be too miserably crowded.

With that said, this post was originally going to be a rant about the sad state of affairs in the world when it’s so difficult to find an NBA game at a bar that you have to go to a dreaded tourist trap with grossly overpriced beers where there is also for some reason a group of sailors dressed in silly sailor outfits meandering around the place looking like they just got off a boat (which they most likely did).

However, not long after we arrived at ESPNZone and sat down at the bar area in front of the Jazz-Clippers game, things took an unexpected turn.

Suddenly, from the corner of my eye, I saw a bright light. And when I turned to my left, I saw that said light was coming from a video camera. Behind the camera stood a woman holding a microphone and man in a pinstriped suit who appeared to be members of the Japanese media. Moments later, they began to interview the man sitting several feet away from us at the bar.

It was at this point that I surmised that they were interviewing people about the Red Sox winning the bidding war to sign star Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka.

And immediately upon making this realiziation, my mind began to whir as to what I might say, because chances were they were coming in our direction next.

And lo and behold, when they finished interviewing the man down the bar, they walked over with the camera, stood in front of us smiling and asked, “Are you from New York?”

When we answered yes, I realized, much to my horror, that they were going to assume that we were Yankees fans.

But before I could even begin to ponder a strategy as to what to say, I saw that my friend was pointing at me as the man they should interview, and the next thing I knew, the bright light was shining in my face and the camera was rolling.

Holding up a newspaper clipping with Matsuzaka’s picture on it, the female reporter said to me, “As a Yankees fan, how do you feel about the Red Sox winning the rights to Daisuke Matsuzaka?”

For a moment, I froze. What would a Yankees fan say in this situation? I was in completely uncharted territory. I had made many Yankees-related comments in my lifetime, but most if not all were of the hateful variety. Never before had I ever stooped so low as to pretend that I actually was a Yankees fan, nor had I tried to empathize with the Yankees fan's mentality. I knew I was supposed to be angry, but I couldn’t really harness the requisite hostility.

So in that split second, I decided to take the high road.

“I think the Red Sox overpaid,” I said flippantly (note: quotes are not word-for-word, but close). “How much did they give him, 51 million?” I half-asked, half-stated. The reporters nodded, smiling back at me and appearing to be impressed. I had no idea where I had come up with this statistic.

I went on, continuing to declare that the Red Sox grossly overpaid, which might have made me seem like the incredibly bitter guy who was unwilling to admit that he was bitter, which, the more I think about it, might have been a realistic reaction for a Yankees fan to have. At one point, as I began to get into my role even more, I pointed out that the Red Sox were not going to have enough money to spend on other players, and added for good measure, “I mean, money’s no object to the Yankees,” which I thought was just the kind of obnoxious remark a real Yankees fan would make to try to piss other people off.

After I finished venting on that topic, they pointed out to me that this upcoming season, Matsuzaka would be facing off against Yankees’ outfielder Hideki Matsui. Who will get the best of that matchup? they wanted to know.

And this was where I completely broke character. After pondering it for a second, but clearly not thinking about it enough, I blurted out: “You know, I think Matsuzaka will be able to handle Matsui.”

Great work, genius. What the hell kind of Yankees fan would say that? If I were playing a real Yankees fan, I would have looked into the camera and screamed out “MATSUI!!!” at the top of my lungs with a crazed look on my face. These people must have thought I was one sorry-ass New Yorker after that comment.

Regardless, they at least seemed legitimately pleased with how things had turned out when they concluded the interview, thanking me and saying "That was great." (Though they probably say that to everyone no matter how quickly they plan to fling the tape into a traffic-filled avenue as soon as they walk outside).

Before they left, my friend asked who they worked for. "This will be on Japanese evening news," the woman said. And with a few more smiles in our direction, they were gone.

Walking out of ESPNZone an hour or so later, I was feeling somewhat critical of my performance, particularly my preposterous comment that Matsuzaka would get the best of Matsui. Considering everything I said, I estimated that there was only about a 10 percent chance I’d actually be on the Japanese evening news.

My friend, however, was more optimistic. Citing my near-flawless pronunciation of Matsuzaka and the fact that I had somehow pulled out the precise number that Boston paid to win his rights, he guessed that there was more like an 80 percent chance I'd make the cut.

With those odds in mind, I’ve dispatched a local scout in Japan to watch Wednesday night’s news to try to figure out if I made it. And anyone who can find a youtube clip with me talking confusedly into a bright light with strange, unrecognizable graphics and a Japanese voiceover track wins a brand new Red Sox Daisuke Matsuzaka jersey, autographed by the one of the brightest young sports media stars to hit in Japan in the past 24 hours: Me.

November 13, 2006

The Stonewashed Clipper

You’ve probably never heard of Yaroslav Korolev, the rarely-used Russian forward for the LA Clippers.

So you probably don’t realize that he’s one of the bravest players in the NBA.

But before your mind starts running wild with images of a lanky, 6-foot-9 Russian diving into a subterranean snake pit to rescue a group of preschoolers from a gruesome, venomous demise, just understand that the concept of bravery is being used in this instance to describe something entirely different than your traditional notion of heroic behavior.

In this case, bravery is used to explain certain choices made with regard to fashion.

As you can read in this recent blog entry by L.A. Times columnist J.A. Adande, Korolev’s fashion tastes are, how should we say… appallingly bizarre. Consider this combo:

A “discotheque-y shirt” (Adande’s words), stonewashed Kenneth Cole jeans, a white belt and red loafers.

Now, as someone who’s been known to throw on the occasional unconventional outfit, please don’t take this to mean that I disapprove.

Disapproval would be this statement from Korolev’s teammate Cuttino Mobley, who told Adande: “If I had nothing else to wear in life, I would have to put it on. Or at least walk around naked.”

Never mind that Mobley is actually being a terrible hypocrite considering some of his own past fashion choices. The real point here is that we’ve got a visionary in our midst. And though you might find the mental image of white belt/white jeans/red loafers powerful enough to induce vomiting, you have to appreciate the fact that Korolev is confident (or clueless) enough to rock such an outfit, all consequences be damned.

Because you just know that in addition to Mobley’s comment, Korolev's teammates must be relentlessly clowning on him about this. Sam Cassell must be talking unbelievable amounts of shit. Tim Thomas is probably walking up to Yaroslav and waving his hand in his face like he does when he hits a trey. I bet even Chris Kaman gets in a few choice digs before he walks out of the locker room wearing a pair of jean shorts and LA Gear high tops.

My message to you, Yaroslav Korolev, is this: Keep on rocking that outfit. Wear it like a badge of honor. Because no matter how silly your teammates might make you feel, your brave fashion choices should be an inspiration to us all.

Though as one of your most vocal supporters, I did have just one thing I wanted to ask: Any chance of losing the white belt? Between you and me, that thing is kind of ridiculous.

November 09, 2006

Li'l Mu and the Awe-Inspiring Power of the Violin

Little-known fact: Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan’s grandson, Mustapha Farrakhan Jr., is a serious baller who’s been recruited by a number of D-I schools.

Another little-known fact: Farrakhan Jr., known by many as “Li’l Mu,” draws his basketball inspiration from an unusual source – his grandfather’s rabid violin playing. Said Li’l Mu of his grandfather in a recent New York Times article

“He’d attack the violin every day. I’d see his teacher come, and they’d practice
one note for hours and hours until he gets it right. He really gets down on it.
I want to attack basketball the way my grandpa attacks the violin.”

Umm…pardon me? Gets down on it? Attacks the violin? Just what kind of violin music is Louis Farrakhan playing? Is he largely focused on playing hardcore death metal covers? Or is he possibly cranking out his own brand of funkified rockabilly bluegrass that’s so up-tempo it makes you want to sprint down the sideline, fill the lane, catch a bounce pass from your point guard and throw down in a defender’s grill?

Otherwise I don’t quite get it. Not sure about the rest of you, but every time I hear someone wailing out a classical melody on a string instrument of any kind, my first instinct is usually to either take the cursed thing out of their hand and smash it over the nearest piece of mahogany furniture, or failing that, to curl up in the fetal position, plug my ears and whimper softly until the terrible noises stop.

Certainly the last thing I want to do when I hear violin playing is lace up my sneaks and “attack basketball.” I’m guessing there’s a reason you don’t hear Pachabel’s Canon being piped in through arena loudspeakers across the nation before games.

Though I don’t necessarily agree with his instrumental preferences, I will say this for our young friend: As far as nicknames go, it doesn’t get much better than Li’l Mu. Really has a nice ring to it. I only hope that this kid becomes a prominent player in college or pro hoops, so that one day I can show up at work and say to a colleague, “Did you see what Li’l Mu did last night? Daaaaaaamn!”

Then we will high five.


The man behind several of the more gruesome posts in this site’s history, Frank G. Yak, is back with another hit – Frank has passed along an article
about a man in California who was caught “lying on a tree stump, masturbating beside a nature path” last week. Pretty funny imagery in and of itself, just considering the general awkward logistics involved in lying on a tree stump. (I’m picturing the guy with the stump in the center of his lower back with his legs and upper body completely straight and not touching the ground, leading to almost unbearable discomfort.) It’s also just amusing to ponder the juxtaposition of the act of masturbating with the general innocence of a nature path, a place where you might picture children happily skipping along or a couple en route to a picnic carrying sandwiches made up of entirely organic ingredients.

The lovely thing, of course, is that it gets far better – this man, who was recently paroled from prison, happened to be concealing a 6-inch awl that was wrapped in black electrical tape inside his anus. For those not in the know,
an awl is a tool that is commonly used for making holes in leather or wood. And I will resist making any jokes about this particular awl and a certain particular hole because frankly that’s disgusting. Nice job, Frank – you’ve gone and done it again.


And on a rare political note, we recently got a tip from loyal reader Mr. Clown about an interesting new phenomenon known as Fantasy Congress. Yes, that’s right, you can now put together a team of your favorite members of U.S. Congress and receive points for their legislative performance. Apparently turning a bill into a law is worth 120 points, while having a bill referred to a House subcommittee is worth only 5. Seems to me that they should also include interesting wild card categories such as “Caught Doing Lines of Blow with Intern in Restroom” or “Embezzling Campaign Funds from Unsavory Sources,” but then again I don’t even get pumped up when I hear violin music, so what do I know.

November 07, 2006

Believing in Magic, for Old Time's Sake

To this day, I remember vividly where I was on the afternoon of November 7, 1991: Standing in my kitchen in Atlanta, taking a phone call from a nerdy kid from school named Charlie who had what was then the closest thing to what we now know as the Internet (Prodigy – remember that?), which he had used to discover a stunning fact, which he in turn relayed to me:

Magic Johnson had been infected with the AIDS virus.

I remember being stunned to say the least. I hadn’t been the world’s hugest Magic fan – that wouldn’t come until a few years later when I came into possession of a spectacular documentary video called Magic Johnson – Always Showtime, narrated brilliantly and hilariously by none other than Danny Glover – but I still knew Magic as a basketball immortal, and the news that he had AIDS suddenly meant that he was immortal no more.

And like that, he was gone.

Not forever, though. There was his triumphant return in the 1992 All-Star Game, where he won the MVP Award against an Eastern Conference squad that may or may not have been giving him open shots to make him look good (sorry, hard not to be cynical about that game even if it was great to watch).

Then in 1995-96, there was the strange, surreal Magic-as-power-forward experiment, which I remember finding wildly exciting even if the rest of the hoops world might have thought the whole thing to be a little bit sad; an old legend putting a fresh coat of dust onto his legacy.

Magic was admittedly too big, and nothing resembling what he had been when he had last played in the NBA, but there were still some moments to remember, perhaps most notably a spectacular old school ball fake and drive to the basket combo (I believe against Golden State) – a move so outdated that it seemed to even pre-date Magic’s prime years, as if he had reached into some far-flung and unknown basketball era in the past to discover it. Yet somehow the move worked, leaving a defender grasping at thin air and bringing at least one basketball fan to his feet right there on the spot.

So on this, the 15th anniversary of one of the most shocking days in pro sports history, if you do nothing else, take a minute to think about Magic in all his glory, running – no, inventing – Showtime in L.A.

And if you’re feeling really ambitious, hop on the Internet (or Prodigy, if you prefer) and pick up a copy of Magic Johnson – Always Showtime, pop it in and let the soothing sounds of Danny Glover’s voice combined with the sight of dribble moves, court vision and creativity beyond compare carry you back to a time and place you’d be crazy not to appreciate.

November 06, 2006

A High Stakes, Leisurely 26.2 Mile Run

The most remarkable thing that happened in the world of sports this weekend was not the Bears losing to the lowly Dolphins, and it was not the Atlanta Hawks winning both of their games to start out 2-1 (sorry, couldn’t resist).

Nor was it the unbelievable last-minute finish of the Redskins-Cowboys game, or the fact that somewhere in Fairfax, VA, yours truly and three friends set out to play a game of 2-on-2 to 100 points only to have the game end at 96-92 when one of the players went to the ground in a heap after his calf cramped for the fifth consecutive play and he was unable to continue.

No, the most remarkable thing that happened in the world of sports this weekend was that Lance Armstrong rolled out of bed in New York City and ran a marathon in under three hours.

Initially, you might not think that this is particularly noteworthy. And considering where everyone else finished, it was far from mind-blowing – Lance was just 869th overall.

But if you think about it for a minute, there is something incredible about what Lance Armstrong did on Sunday. Because in some strange way, it proves his unique determination as effectively as anything else he’s accomplished.

And yes, I’m fully aware of how he’s already come back from certain death in the face of his bout with testicular cancer, and I know all too well the stories about his improbable triumphs in the Tour de France. I’ve heard those stories a hundred times.

And that’s just it – this story of Lance running the marathon is not one we’ve heard before. But in a quiet and refreshing way it tells the same tale, and if anything, it casts the man in a different light. Because this he didn’t do for money (okay, he probably got paid by Nike, but you get the point), and he didn’t do this to prove he was the best in the world or to piss off the French, to name a few of his motivating factors in repeatedly riding the Tour.

This he did at least in large part for the love of competition. And he didn’t have to run it so well – he could have easily clocked in at 3:30 or 4 hours and made some jokes about how he’s apparently been enjoying retirement too much so he’s gotten out of shape. And everyone would have laughed, because it’s Lance, and everyone (the French excluded) loves Lance.

But instead, he ran that race as hard as he possibly could. And in doing so, he raised the idea that regardless of where you stand on any and all doping allegations surrounding him, perhaps in some weird way it doesn’t really matter whether he cheated once or twice or uncountable times or never.

Because ultimately what we’ve always wanted (and gotten) from Lance is to be inspired. But the possibility of doping has made us wonder at least in part if we can trust what we’ve seen.

Yesterday, at least some of that changed. Through this relatively quiet yet transcendent performance, Lance Armstrong didn’t lay to rest any and all doubts about his past, but he did give us all reason to believe, once again, in the incredible power of determination.


  • And now that we’ve maxed out the sappy-ness quotient for the week, we’ll move on to something a tad bit more debaucherous: Ron Artest’s album dropped on Tuesday, and from the sound of things, this disc is rather remarkable. I would have loved to have gotten the jump on it and written a review and may still do so, but for now SLAMOnline has beaten me to it. By the way, after reading this, you will definitely be tempted to run out to the record store almost immediately. Thus far I’ve resisted. (And as a side note, my spell check told me that “debaucherous” is not a word. This saddens me greatly, but not to the point that I won’t continue to throw around said word at every opportunity.)
  • From the look of it, I’m going to have to start watching more Pistons games on NBA League Pass, if for no other reason than to watch the impending combustion of Rasheed Wallace under the League’s new “Zero Tolerance” policy. This clearly isn’t working particularly well for ‘Sheed. Instead of complying with the referee's efforts to crack down, he’s taking verbal dumps all over David Stern’s proverbial brand new Oriental rug. Consider this recent quote from Rasheed:

I know they’re going to have to do something about this crazy zero-tolerance law. That’s retarded. In my mind, it’s kind of like a slave and master or father and son. You’ve got your little son and [you say] don’t say nothing back to me – and to me, that’s totally wrong. It ain’t like that in any other sport.”
Truth be told, I can completely understand ‘Sheed’s frustration, and though the slave reference might have been a bit extreme, his point is understandable.

But here’s the overarching question that comes to mind after reading this quote: Is it okay to use the word “retarded”? In my daily travels I encounter many people who find the use of this word rather irresistible but at the same time they feel kind of guilty about doing so. And the reason they feel guilty is that there are a lot of people out there who will give you a stern lecture if they catch you saying the “R” word.

It’s almost gotten to the point where it’s approaching the upper tier of taboo words along with…(Sorry but I can’t write them here or some of you will get angry at me)

I don’t know about the rest of you, but like Rasheed I’m fed up with being censored. From here on out, and until further notice, I’m planning on following #36’s lead and adopting a “Zero Tolerance” policy of my own against anyone who has a problem with me and anyone else dropping “R” bombs on the regular. If you’ve got a problem, take it up with David Stern and tell him to fine me. Just know that my attorneys and I plan to appeal any and all sanctions.

November 02, 2006

Fantasy Alcoholism

Overheard on the R train heading downtown early Wednesday evening:

Guy #1: I hung out with Conrad the other day.

Guy #2: That guy’s a raging alcoholic, dude.

Guy #1: He is?

Guy #2: Yeah! We're in a fantasy league with him and he hasn't changed his lineup since the draft.

Don’t know about the rest of you, but I found this exchange to be pretty comical. Granted, there was other information eventually offered explaining Conrad's alcoholism, including the fact that he was fired from his job because he would go home and "drink his face off" every day after work and then show up in the same clothes the next day.

But it definitely says something (not exactly sure what) about the relevance of fantasy sports in our culture that the very first piece of evidence offered for a guy’s alcoholism was the fact that he hadn’t monitored his football squad since drafting it.

So that’s why some of you who are in my various leagues aren’t paying attention. You’re all drunks!

Seriously, a very important public service announcement: Next time you notice that a friend of yours is starting to slip in important aspects of his life (most notably in fantasy sports management), don’t ask questions – perform an intervention immediately and get him into rehab.

November 01, 2006

Follow That Taxi Cab

The words on the ESPN digital display atop the taxi cab at the corner of 57th and 3rd late Tuesday night read: “Red Auerbach laid to rest in brief, simple ceremony.”

Now, normally I find those taxi cab digital signs to be about as captivating as a college history lecture on the subject of…

Sorry, I tuned out there.

Anyhow, this particular display immediately grabbed my attention, even if for all the wrong reasons. Brief, simple ceremony? I know there are severe limitations on space and word count for those things, but whoever is in charge of those headlines has got to do better than that.

And it’s not just that the sentence “Red Auerbach laid to rest in brief, simple ceremony” is boring and nondescript. It goes even further than that – it’s almost like the sign is getting all catty and passive aggressive with its choice of words.

Take, for instance, the use of the word “brief” to describe the ceremony. If you want to make a short intuitive leap, it’s almost like the sign is implying that no one had anything to say about the guy (My, that was an awfully brief ceremony…I thought this guy was supposed to have been important).

And if you’re so inclined to continue overanalyzing with me (come on, it’s fun), the word “simple” might suggest that the ceremony was somehow lacking in appearance or decor, as if to hint that Red’s family didn’t have the loot for a fancy service. (A nice ceremony, but I’m a bit surprised it was so simple for a man of his stature…)

In any case, you get the idea – it’s a small point about one headline pertaining to a larger-than-life individual. And the simple fact is, the thing just should have been written differently, or it should have been left off the top of the taxi altogether.

Which brings me to my next point, which is that the digital ticker on top of the taxi cabs is without a doubt one of the biggest wastes of time, money and energy I can think of that could so easily be eliminated. (How would we easily eliminate them? Simple: Arm me and a few of my associates with sledge hammers – and preferably really cool-looking uniforms – and we’ll walk around the city smashing the cursed things into a thousand pieces whenever we see one.)

Just think about how useless these things are for a second: First of all, the scores are rarely, if ever, up to date, the news headlines, as we know, are poorly written to the point that you could in the right frame of mind interpret them to be talking shit about a dead guy’s funeral proceedings, and the fact is that anyone who actually wants to know such sports-related information while out and about is going to be far more likely to get the info on his cell phone than go sprinting in front of traffic to chase down a speeding taxi cab on 7th avenue.

Seems to me that these displays would be far more useful if they made like that big freeway sign in L.A. Story (our second L.A. Story reference in about two weeks) and frequently distributed profound, life-altering advice to anyone who was ready and willing to notice it. Now that would be a useful thing to have on top of taxi cabs.

Of course, from a strategic standpoint this would probably not be a wise move for ESPN, because any honest digital display that intended to change our lives for the better would most likely tell me and countless others of my ilk, “You’re wasting far too much of your time following sports.”

A couple random thoughts to get out of the way:

  • Great start last night for Miami’s defense of its NBA title. I was lucky enough to miss most of this game, so I can’t say for sure whether it was about Chicago’s new defense being absolutely nasty or whether it was about Shaq being disinterested and currently out of shape, Antoine Walker still taking 3’s he can’t make and Gary Payton looking like a very old 37. And now that I’ve written it out, I’m pretty sure Miami has some legitimate causes for concern.
  • While watching the Panthers-Cowboys game over the weekend, I found myself pondering the following question: Who do you think would win a fight between Julius Peppers and a grizzly bear? And yes, I know it’s obvious that a fully-grown grizzly would most likely tear off Julius’ arms at the shoulder and use them to bludgeon him into unconsciousness, but I guess my bigger point was that I’m pretty sure there’s no dude in pro sports I’d be more afraid of pissing off than Peppers. Because think about it – not only does he have the power to demolish you with one decisive, downwards strike of the fist, but he also has the speed to catch you if you decided to swallow your pride and run away. (Not that I would ever think about running away or anything...)